tonight on a special edition of "nightline," scenes of unbelievable destruction. rescues still under way as the superstorm leaves hundreds of thousands more digging out from under a record snow. plus -- water world. new york city under water. cut off and without power. its famous subways completed flooded and at a standstill. laguardia airport almost totally submerged. "nightline's" juju chang with the view from the air and on the ground. and, the day after. we're in the smoldering ruins of a community of 9/11 heroes, many trapped and forced to watch helplessly as the waters rose and their houses burn.
good evening. i'm terry moran reporting tonight from the wreckage of the town of seaside heights, new jersey. where the destruction is just biblical. there is water everywhere. this town was nearly swept away into the sea but more important tonight, there are still dozens, maybe scores of people behind me still stranded in the dark, in the cold, still awaiting rescue in the wake of a storm that ripped homes from their foundations, reduced piers to rubble. we saw this up and down the jersey shore today. this community is just one of the hardest hit along the ravaged shoreline of this state. a state where tonight, 65% of the people are without power in the dark and tonight, here where a new danger encroaches.
it was a surreal journey at dusk we canoed through the flooded streets of seaside heights, a summer town overwhelmed and eerily silent after the storm wrecked it. this is incredible. here and there, those who stayed, they are refugees now. did you ride the storm out? >> we stayed here. >> reporter: thomas stayed dry in the second floor home but now, they are stranded, cold and in dire straits. >> i've been through four hurricanes, never seen anything like this. >> reporter: and it is getting dangerous here, gas lines are broken. there is fuel from boats and cars sitting in the floodwaters across the town. >> they said if they couldn't shut off the gas everyone has to leave because whole town could blow. >> reporter: the boardwalk as the heart of the resort, strange place now. amusement park is in ruins. the rides that gave generations of kids so many thrills lie
crumpled and broken in the slufr. there is little left. this is sandy's legacy, so many communities will never be the same after this terrible storm struck monday. it made laund near margate, new jersey, just before 8:00 and as sandy moved inland the bulk of the wrath felt in the upper right quadrant of the path, leaving a trail of misery stretching north. it devastated atlantic city and that famous jersey shore, beach towns and barrier islands all the way up to new york. the island of manhattan inundated as the hudson and east rivers flooded. places like little ferry, new jersey, utterly devastated. rescue teams spent all day fishing people out of their submerged homes. among those picked up, maryan, now wearing her brother's pajamas, all of her clothes lost in the storm. >> we tried to evacuate, and the
water was up to here on us and we lost everything. we're alive, we are together and we have our cat. >> reporter: they are shuttle into a sheriff's van. >> i never thought i'd be in the back of one of these. >> reporter: no idea where they are even going. >> a wale of water this high came rushing over the stairwell. >> reporter: others, like the richardson family, chose to stay behind despite their living room and kitchen in three feet of water. >> nothing to do now but just clean up. that's it. >> reporter: throughout the northeast, 8.2 million customers without power. 65% of new jersey in the dark. new jersey's governor chris christie, phone nor his brashness seemed himself moved by what he saw. >> as a kid who was a boy raised in the state, who spent a lot of time over my life at the jersey shore, no question in my mind we'll rebuild it. >> reporter: so many weird sights here.
my colleague ginger zee got a firsthand look at the damage in atlantic city. >> this car is completely covered in sand up to the wheel well. this was at the bottom of the ocean before the storm. >> reporter: in cape may this morning the very southern tip of the shore, no major damage, but a landscape transformed. this is an eight-foot street sign that is now waist-high. in berkeley, another town in ruin, the scene was equally tragically, bizarre. as we made our way north along the shore, we got a sense of how vast this recovery must be. will be. even here in seaside heights, a drowned town now, haunted by its stranded and frightened residents, and the ghosts of so many summers past. one final note, we'll be here all night and just a little while ago a resident trudged out of the darkness and asked us if we needed anything. god bless him. when we come back, we'll get you back to cynthia mcfadden and
reporting from new york, on the incredible flooding in the iconic subways of new york city. unbelievable sight and a nearby town just devastated by fire. ♪ ♪ [ male announcer ] it was designed to escape the ordinary. it feels like it can escape gravity. ♪ the 2013 c-class coupe. ♪ starting at $37,800. ♪ [ male announcer ] you've reached the age where you don't back down from a challenge. this is the age of knowing how to make things happen.
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and good evening and welcome back to "nightline's" special storm coverage. tonight, lower manhattan remains eerily dark and partially under water. after 18 people lost their lives due to the storm here. my colleague, abc's juju chang spent last night wading through a flooded downtown and today, went to survey the damage. >> what's going on?
>> you have to go another route. >> reporter: it took us much of the day navigating through streets made treacherous through by sandy's fury. we got hit by wave. we managed to rend vi ed td ton harrowing view of the city. >> look at this neighborhood. >> reporter: devastated. >> that building is gone entirely. >> reporter: their mission, to get a more accurate picture of sandy's impact. >> more flooding on the left side. >> reporter: and search for stranded souls. who were you able to rescue today? >> i had to rescue a couple of males and fae males, he was diabetic and she was pretty shooken up. >> reporter: last night, new york's rivers sunked above the banks of lower manhattan with a record wolff water. today, you could see the damage everywhere. the vital infrastructure, under ground subway, crippled, the
system that carries 5 million riders every day, still a deluged tunnel of darkness. authorities say it will take days to pump the water out of 46 miles of flooded track, largely because thof that, the city is paralyzed, schools, restaurants and many businesses remain closed. with subways shut down the only only way on and off this island are bridges and tunnels which only today are slowly beginning to reopen. the verrazano is open for business. last night we met the bradshaw family that live in the shad oest world trade center and ignored mandatory evacuation orders and rode out storm with their 1-month-old. >> we take this seriously and we're prepared. >> reporter: they lost power and at high tide last night river water chest deep was in their lobby. today they reversed course. >> the plan is to head uptown to someplace with power, midtown, and stay in a hotel for the next
three nights until i fly out to florida to visit family. >> reporter: they evacuated down 15 flights of stairs in darkness. that is amazing. but flying out of this city is easier said than done. all three new york area airports remain closed. >> looks like laguardia is sinking into the ocean there. >> reporter: that is laguardia down there normally handles 1,000 flights a day, now a modern-day atlantis. it looks like a river. it doesn't look a land mass, it looks like a lake or pond. as we fly around the lower tip of manhattan, even new york's waterways -- >> a lot of oil there. >> reporter: and when with touch down we thought our journey was over. the coast guard guys dropped us off at the wall street helipad which clearly sustained a lot of damage. there is flooding in mere. we're locked. we're locked in. we hit another obstacle.
either we go for a swim in the river or go over that fence. there is no way out. here goes nothing. i'm out. tonight, this was the scene in lower manhattan as we made our way back uptown. everyone of the skyscrapers are without power, they are just dark. no streetlights, no stoplights. the only lights are the headlights of the con ed trucks frantically trying to restore power. as they work through the night, which may be fitting for a city that never sleeps. i'm juju chang for "nightline" in manhattan. >> talk about intrepid reporting, thank you, juju. and late word, jfk and newark liberty airports will reopen tomorrow. we turn to a tiny beachfront enclave about 25 miles from lower manhattan, a ton that lost many of its own on 9/11 and faced with a fresh assault last night. "20/20"co-anchor elizabeth
vargas made her way to breezy point today. >> reporter: engulfed not only by wind and rain by hurricane sandy but something unexpected, fire. they say dozens, up to 100 homes have been decimated and left in a rubble that is still smoking even today as we walk through it. today, a stunned beachfront communive firemen and policemen and blue collar workers took stock of what was gone. not a single thing you can save. >> nothing i could identify except the kitchen tile and bathroom tile. that's about it. >> reporter: while the cause is unknown there is no question the fire was ferocious. the flames were fed by hurricane-force winds. hydrants with submerged. fire engines stranded helplessly blocks away by rising floodwaters. >> it's like the apocalypse. >> reporter: abc producers were caught there with so many others.
they phoned in overnight to "nightline." >> i'm in a communive 4200 homes out here, this is a community that lost the most people during 9/11. firefighters and cops and during 9/11. this community was hit horribly tonight. the people here are amazing people. people with a lot of pride to them and they're keeping their pride tonight. people are saying they'll rebuild and somehow they'll get through this. >> reporter: today, the task of getting through this was brutally clear. it will be a long time before anyone in this neighborhood we walked through will be able to call breezy point home. more than 100 homes burned to the ground. dreams of retirement cottages now reduced to piles of ash. >> i haven't seen anything like this in my career. the only thing that came close to this was 9/11. >> reporter: this community, home to so many firefighters and first responders, has seen more than its share of tragedy. 29 of their own killed on 9/11.
but, it is a community with bravery and resilience, woven into its dna. we saw it today. we have accompanied ee vac wees on a truck holding their breath as they head back to the neighborhood for the first time since the storm hit. joanne, who didn't lose her home to fire, discovered she lost the lower level of her house to a flood. >> thank god we're all alive. >> reporter: this is senator charles schumer's home district, he came today as well. have you ever seen anything like this? >> never. i asked 20 firefighters who have had probably 1,000 year or 500 years of experience, asked them if they ever seen anything like this, never have. >> reporter: hard to see any signs good things to come but just as it has done before, breezy point is picking up the pieces. >> very strong community. they'll rebuild and come back. >> reporter: for "nightline," i'm elizabeth vargas in breezy point, new york. >> heartbreaking story and
resilient people. our thanks to elizabeth. just ahead, driving snow and high winds leave hundreds of thousands struggling to leave their homes. the arctic blast proving this storm hasn't pulled its last the arctic blast proving this storm hasn't pulled its last punch. "ever ask some you a foot?" "who thinks about stuff like that?" "vince mahe grew up on two continents... and noticed that wherever you go, people have their hands full, but their feet free." "the result? a liftgate you operate with your foot." "code name?" "open sesame" "the all new twenty thirteen ford escape. it's what happens when you go further."
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as sandy heads north the winds are slowing but still the kind of extreme weather with the power to distract from a presidential race that literally could not be closer. just a week until election day my co-anchor bill weir reports from swing state country, youngstown, ohio. >> reporter: sandy maybe 50 miles outside of pittsburgh but she is dropping a full assortment of meteorological
misery from georgia to wisconsin. on the west virginia/midborder in the form ch snow, enough to turn nearly 50 mielt was interstate into a treacherous parking lot, expecting 14 inches of this in north carolina. wheen mile in cleveland, storm scarred the rock and roll hall of fame before churning up waves on lake michigan enough to set records and force folks from their midwestern homes. and the fact that all of this is playing out a week before election day could make sandy the mother of all october surprises, an event big enough po push climate back into the political climate. and reframe the debate over the size of government, specifically the size of federal disaster relief. >> you can't always solve all of the problems yourself but you can make the difference in the life of one or two people. >> reporter: it looked like a campaign stop in battleground ohio mitt romney deliberately stepped off the stump to accept leaf donations and encourage
more but he avoided questions about his previous stance on the role of fema. >> governor, would you eliminate fema if you were president? >> reporter: president obama stayed in washington to visit red cross, attend briefings with governors and utility ceos. >> i think he's handled it well. >> reporter: compassionate or calculated, depending on who called into the radio show in youngstown, ohio. >> where was it when it happened in ben gaza and i and he flew t snas he learned his lesson. >> reporter: a vital corner of a vial state with 28 visits from romney this year, 19 from obama. >> president obama wasn't able to come as planned because of the storm. >> reporter: do you think that hurts his cause in ohio? >> absolutely not. i think more people respect him for doing what what the
president is supposed to do. >> reporter: the drizzle wasn't enough to keem elaine from going door to door on obama's behalf tonight. >> hi, how are you? >> reporter: hello. a few miles away brothers and roger did the same for romney. >> i don't think personally that after four years of watching this president that it should change anybody's mind in four days on four years of failure. >> very difficult. >> reporter: here's one republican mind that seems to have changed at least for now, governor christie. >> i want to thank the president personally for his personal attention. >> reporter: president obama will be with christie in new jersey tomorrow and sandy and canada. what is means to the election decembstined to be a november surprise. >> thank you, bill. and thank you for watching abc news, "gma" will have the lates